A 68 Anniversary refret…

Another of Lachlan’s growing collection of Gretsches appeared in my workshop in need of a refret and on first appearance- and I really should know better by now…-I thought that it should be straight forward and relatively uncomplicated.

The frets on this 1968 Double Anniversary with HiLo’Tron single coil pickups were extremely low and on first appearances, replacing the frets should solve all its problems.

I pulled all of the old frets and, because the fret slots were in reasonably good state, I proceeded to tap in a new set. About here it became apparent that even with plenty of fret height, levelling the new frets might not be all that simple…

I should, as I say, have noticed at the outset that the neck had a serious issue between the 7th and 14th frets. The neck had developed a downward kink that the truss rod had no interest in straightening and the new frets couldn’t cure.

And with the new frets all removed again, the straight edge showed exactly the problem.

Major surgery…and the front pickup had to be removed to allow some working room.

The first approach was with a sharp plane…

…but this proved to be a less than ideal approach because of the grain direction in the fretboard causing too much chipping at the fret slot edges.

So sanding is the next option and this proved more satisfactory. The low area is highlighted using a white pencil…

…and a close watch kept on the fret board radius and the dip is slowly removed.

This can be a hazardous undertaking and if not closely monitored, inlays can be sanded through or the radius can become uneven.

Anyway, all is good and after fine sanding, the fret board is back to being as it should be and the straight edge shows that the dip has been removed.

I’ve collected the fine dust from the sanding process and I’ll use that to colour the filler for all of those chips that I’ve now got to repair.

How much wood did I need to remove to remove that dip? This much…

So on to the next issue. Removing a considerable amount of wood from the surface of the fret board meant that this happens-

- the fret slots now aren’t deep enough to accept the new fret wire and the task of deepening the slots is complicated because the fret board is bound. Removing the binding isn’t an option so I have to carefully resaw the slots to the required depth without disturbing the binding…again not a job to be taken lightly.

The slots are cut from both sides, right up to the binding, while making absolutely sure not to accidentally saw into the binding on the other side.

The depth gauge says that the new fret wire now will fit. And now there’s even more chips to fill…

After pre-cutting another set of new frets…

…I’ve decided that these frets will be glued in as follows:-

And as an additional precaution, I’ll leave the new frets clamped down over night.

Next morning, the fret ends are cut flush and filed and the best testing method is running my fingers along the fret ends. If any sharp ends remain, I’ll instantly know!

After levelling, recrowning and polishing the frets, the renewed fret board is oiled…

,,,and the old Gretsch is reassembled and a new bone nut is made and fitted and then fitted with new strings.

And now it plays as good as new again…